Stab Magazine | So-Cal’s Last Stretch Of Undeveloped Coast Is Under Threat

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So-Cal’s Last Stretch Of Undeveloped Coast Is Under Threat

Commissioner Steve Kinsey’s secret meetings exposed. The CCC’s getting awful cozy with developers.

news // Jun 3, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

In February, the California Coastal Commission (CCC), despite overwhelming opposition, voted to oust their Executive Directer, Charles Lester. It’s the greatest threat to California’s coast in the last 40 years. Dr Lester preserved the ideals put in place by the CCC which have stood strong for four decades.

The CCC’s an independent state agency who’s purpose is to protect, conserve, restore and enhance the coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable use, today, tomorrow and for future generations. In short, they protect Californian’s right to their beaches and ocean.

The meaningless voice of the public at the hearing in Morro Bay that resulted in no “more Lester.” Photo: Mercury News

The firing of Dr Lester was largely criticised, an open hearing was held at Morro Bay and regardless of immense public support for the Ex-Director, he was removed from office with a seven-to-five vote.

Yesterday, the LA times reported that Commissioner Steve Kinsey has asked the agency’s attorney if he should (and he should) sit out the vote on the Newport Banning Ranch Project, “after he held two unreported private meetings with project representatives.”

“The Banning Ranch project calls for 895 homes, 45,100 square feet of retail space and a hotel to be built on 400 acres about 1,000 feet from the Pacific Ocean,” states the LA Times. “Dotted with oil facilities, the land is the largest undeveloped coastal parcel in Southern California.”

For the first meeting, on November 4, he’s offered no explanation. The second, December 22, he claims he simply forgot because of the holidays. One of said unreported meetings included a five hour site tour. And to concerned Californians, it seems the shift from the CCC’s public to political agenda is carrying on as feared.

Steve Kinsey didn’t fail to report to Dr Lester’s ousting. Photo: LA Times

In a memo to Commission Deputy Director Sherilyn Sarb, Steve questioned the staff scientists’ original assessment that the proposed land should be protected from development. Stating, “my overall impression is that the site has been so heavily degraded by historic oil operations that many of the areas identified as environmentally sensitive habitat in the staff’s October presentation seem unwarranted.” Unwarranted or not, there’s been enough damage to Southern California’s coast. With all environmental concerns aside, nearly 900 homes, would generate roughly 1800 more cars on the road (theoretically), and the 405 will finally become the parking lot it always dreamt of.

These “ex-parte” (private, verbal or written communications between commissioners and interested parties that could influence a decision) meetings have inspired a bill designed to ban such interactions and will be voted on in the State Senate this week. “This bill will level the playing field between big-moneyed interests and those without such financial resources,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson. “It will remove the possibility of backroom decision-making or the perception that it’s occurring and will help ensure that decisions are made more openly and transparently.”

We’ll see how this all unfolds but historically, money always wins…

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